For nearly six months now I have been living in a foreign country.
It's not so foreign I suppose. Only one border and no oceans away. A shorter plane ride back to Ohio than I had from Seattle. Really, I just moved in with our southern neighbors.
When I first made the move, I got a lot of questions about what it felt like to live in a different country. People wanted to know what things were different or strange, what things I missed, and whether or not I liked Mexico.
Did I mention that I live in Mexico right now?
Guadalajara to be precise.
I honestly didn't know how to answer the questions. I mean, sure things were different, but that seemed obvious and to be expected. I was living in a foreign place after all. It goes without saying that many, many things will be different from home. As far as I could see, none of the differences really seemed to bother me and I felt like for the most part I was falling into the rhythms of Mexican life fairly easily. Tacos all the time wasn't such an awful thing to adjust to and I adored my little walk up apartment with the big, bright beautiful window overlooking my new world.
Last week I got on a plane, soared through the sky and a few cities and touched ground in the US of A for the first time since I moved to Mexico.
I wish I could explain how strange it felt.
Walking into the Atlanta airport and suddenly understanding all of the conversation and murmering around me...attempting to buy an In Style magazine with the only cash in my wallet (pesos of course) and looking around frantically for the trash can in the bathroom stall to throw my toilet paper in...I felt like I was in another world.
Which is funny, because of course I was actually home.
This went on for a few days. Catching myself speaking Spanish out of habit, accidentally tossing toilet paper in the trash can, and wondering where the lime was at every single restaurant. I wanted to cry. I didn't understand why everything felt so strange and different and I felt so strange and different and out of place. I was in this funk of sorts and I couldn't seem to find my way out. It was very Twilight Zone-ish. Like the last few months had just been a dream or something. Like I was living a completely separate life that had no connection to this place. I couldn't seem to find a way to make the two worlds and lives collide.
It's funny because it would seem that coming back home would be the easier part. That moving to a foreign country would be the strange and different part that set you in a funk an made you want to cry. And I suppose there probably were a few moments like that. But coming home I thought would be so light and refreshing.
Here's what I figured out while I was thinking and wandering my way out of that funk.
When you move your life to a foreign country, you more than expect things to be different and strange. You understand that foreign means not your home and so you aren't so surprised when you find things not like what you left behind. In fact, if you move to a foreign country, most likely you are looking forward to these new and different things and thus you are ready and willing to embrace them and fall into rhythm with them. You are seeking the adventure and an unfamiliar way of life.
On the other hand, when you come home again, you are expecting things to be just the same...just as you left them. You want all of the streets and houses and people to look the same. You expect that people will be the same and that all of your favorite places to go and hang out will remain perfectly in tact. You sort of expect that everyone and everything has just been on hold and frozen waiting for your return. Instead you find that life has kept moving right along just like you have and a lot of things are different. Houses have been repainted and businesses have moved. Streets have been reconstructed and people have come and gone and experienced life...life without you in it. And more than anything, you have changed. You are different. You have also had experiences and seen things that these people have not and suddenly it feels as if no matter how much you try, you cannot possibly find a way to make your worlds converge. You can't figure out how to get the people and the things from both places that you love to connect and thus you are left hanging and alone somewhere in between.
And for a few days I was there. Lonely and confused and somewhere in between here and there. Not quite in Ohio but also not still in Mexico.
It took a little bit to warm up to here (which I did literally because it is unseasonable warm for an Ohio December). It wasn't so much that I missed Mexico, but more that it was hard to grasp that it had even happened...that I was going back there...that my life now resides there and that I now exist more there than here. But eventually old faces and spaces were comforting again and started to feel familiar and warm and I was glad to be here back if only for a little while.
It was only the first time that I returned to life here after life in a foreign land. And so I am sure that over time and after many trips to and fro, the feelings and the funks will become normal and natural. I will learn to expect them and embrace them and overcome them with ease.
But for now, I am going to embrace and enjoy the things I never knew I would miss.
Water from the tap.
Taza chicken salads.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Natural Peanut Butter
Natural Peanut Butter
Huge cozy sweaters all day long
Bath and Body Works
Barnes and Noble
And when I go home...or rather back to Mexico I will embrace all of the things I didn't realize I had come to love so very much.
Walking always and everywhere
My crazy little kiddos
My little corner store
Lime on every table ever
Coming to you this Monday evening from somewhere in between but with a very full and grateful heart and two lovely homes for now.